Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever. – Ezra 9:12

*   *   *

Looking at the events of the Bible, I keep wondering how the Jewish people have survived at all. We have all the missed opportunities to establish a larger people, beginning with the loss of Ishmael and the children of Abraham’s later wives and concubines. Likewise, Esau and his family. The list continues, even before we get to the ten tribes lost in the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon or its later slaughter and ruin by the Romans. The Nazis were only the latest manifestation.

*   *   *

I felt echoes as we drove down the road and noticed that mailbox after mailbox having a Quaker surname – families that had fallen away from the faith and practice. The town itself was now overwhelmingly redneck. Why didn’t they stick with Friends?

“Pure Christianity is too difficult. You can’t pass that to your children. They have to work at it to discover it for themselves. Most of them wouldn’t. They’d prefer the entertainment of hymns or fancy singing, if they turn to anything.”

*   *   *

As the Jewish remnant returned to Jerusalem, Ezra and his circle made harsh choices to preserve an inheritance forever. Among other actions, they ordered divorces and dissolved families. They chose to separate themselves from the wider society, much like the Amish today or even Friends through much of our history. Still, I look at what’s lost and wonder.

*   *   *

Wherefore such who will not turn from their Idols, to serve the living God, so as to break off their Sins by a real Reformation, he will be terrible unto them, and will certainly visit them with Ruin and Destruction. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

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